In addition to announcing MLS’ 2012 Best XI today, commissioner Don Garber also gave a wide-ranging “state of the league” address and conference call.
Among the things he said:
*2012 was the most-successful season in league history, citing record attendance, increased broadcast presence on NBC and NBCSN, and the expansion into Montreal. He said attendance is up more than 25 percent since 2005, and the 114 sellouts this season are a league record. There also were six crowds of 50,000 or more, three of those in Seattle.
*Sounders’ midfielder Eddie Johnson’s return to MLS was one of the league’s top stories.
*praised the contributions of Los Angeles midfielder David Beckham, who is leaving the league after the MLS Cup on Saturday. Garber said that since Beckham came to the league in 2007, MLS has added seven franchises and 10 soccer stadiums. The expansion fee jumped from $10 million for Toronto in 2007 to $40 million for Montreal last season.
*The 2013 season will begin March 2. He added that some First Kick innovations will be announced soon.
*The 2013 schedule and playoff formats will remain the same as in 2012.
*There also is no planned change for the Designated Player rules, although the salary cap will increase as called for in the collective bargaining agreement.
*Flushing Meadows, N.Y., remains the most likely spot for a 20th MLS franchise, perhaps in 2016. Garber also cited Miami, Orlando and Minneapolis as later expansion possibilities, if appropriate stadium solutions can be created there. He repeated that “we need to be south of Washington, D.C.,” and cited Florida as a logical place for at least one franchise.
*D.C. United seems to have “momentum” toward finding a replacement for RFK Stadium, however there was nothing new to report on hopes for a downtown home for the New England Revolution.
*he has no problem with another pair of low-seeded teams – No. 5 Houston at No. 4 Los Angeles – meeting for the MLS Cup. The match will be played at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The game will be shown on ESPN and will be available in a league-record 110 countries.